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I am addressing the situation when there is a mismatch between what the question title asks for, and what the question body asks for. Given the mismatch, any answer can address either the title or the body, not both, so there is possibility to be marked as off-topic in either case.

I have read What to do with overly general question titles on specific questions, and I noticed that a new title can be suggested, but let's suppose an answer is already provided, and is flagged as off-topic. How is this resolved?

Let's take the concrete example of How to explain intravenous drug abuse to a 6-year-old?. While the title asks for an explanation about the drug usage, the body of the question is rather asking for how to explain the presence of needles on a playground, and why a child should stay away from touching needles (or at least that is my understanding, please correct me if I am wrong). Key phrases that highlight the intent of the question:

What I couldn't explain was why the syringes and needles were there

I almost went ahead and explained intravenous drug use (proves that drug discussion is a sub-topic)

I've also explained that neither needles nor syringes must be touched because they carry infection. (parent is worried about child safety, not about explaining drug use)

There is a mismatch between what is intended in the title, and what is intended in the body of the question. While the drug-discussion and the needle-discussion aren't necessarily unrelated, I feel that the drug-discussion is a sub-topic (therefore not mandatory to be addressed in an answer) of the main topic, which is about explaining needles presence on a playground AND effectively keeping a child away from touching needles.

Therefore, is an answer, which does address the presence of needles, but not the drug usage, like this one https://parenting.stackexchange.com/a/37200/35622, off-topic or not?

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    The question seems fairly clear to me; there's background on why it's being asked to provide context, but that doesn't conflict with the title. The feedback on your answer also gives you a good idea on how to improve it. – fbueckert May 7 at 16:20
  • Answer to title and body (very simplified) is: "Some people are addicted to drugs that are dangerous, and some of those people are also careless - so you should avoid: those people, their possessions, and their discards" (reworded so it's age appropriate). Simply explaining one or the other doesn't address the "why" and "what" of the question, and it's fair that the two are interrelated; otherwise one or the other would be OK without both. – Rob May 7 at 16:52
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You shouldn’t be answering titles, you should be answering questions. Answers that take a question too literally are rarely good answers. Read the body of the question and try to understand what is actually being asked, then answer that regardless of what the title says. You could edit the title to make it match the body better if you felt it necessary.

The title is there to attract people that might be interested, not to state the question in its entirety. I know that some folks incorrectly treat their titles as the first line of their question; we shouldn’t encourage it.

Answers can’t be “off-topic”, so I assume someone has incorrectly flagged it as “not an answer”? If an answer makes an attempt to answer the question asked, but it misses the mark, it can be fixed. The best course of action would be to leave a comment letting the author know they misunderstood something about the question and give them a chance to correct their answer, but people can down-vote and move on if they want to.

The author should accept the feedback they receive and try to improve their answer to better communicate their point. If people are misunderstanding how an answer relates to the question asked, then we might not have done as good a job as we thought we did in our explanation.

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That sounds like a question that can be fully addressed in an answer.

I don't see why a mismatch in title and body would make a question off-topic. It could make a question unclear, and if so the question should be put on hold until the author clarifies. But here, the intent seems pretty obvious and the mismatch could be addressed by an edit, which any community member can either make or propose.

Sometimes people type a title that they think is the thrust of their question, and then in writing the body the focus changes a bit. If it looks like that's what happened, help the person out with an edit! Or at least a comment asking for clarification.

  • I was not debating whether the Question is off-topic, I was debating whether a potential Answer would be off-topic – wile the coyote May 8 at 6:52
  • Answers can't be "off-topic". They can be non-answers, and the SE norm is that link-only "answers" are non-answers. Answers can partially address the question and while that's a deficiency, those are still answers. – Monica Cellio May 8 at 13:15

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